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I Want Some Candy!

American Vampire (volume 1)American Vampire volume one cover

Words: Snyder, Scott and King, Stephen

Pictures: Alberquerque, Raphael

Vertigo Comics, 2010

ISBN:978 1401229740

Look, I’m not coming late to this vampire craze, I promise.  As we’ve already established, I like my vamps covered in blood and ripping out throats, rather than dry-humping their teenage girlfriends to the dulcet strains of some emo band – or as Mr. King so evocatively tells us in his introduction:

“What should they be? Killers, honey.  Stone killers who never get enough of that tasty Type-A.  Bad boys and girls.  Hunters.  In other words; Midnight America.  Red, white and blue, accent on the red.”

And boy, if the throat-ripping vampire is your scene, you could do worse than Skinner Sweet, the dark star of the American Vampire comic book series.

I know I’m gushing here, but honestly, this comic is just luminous.  The writing is brilliant, the artwork glorious.  Because the story traces Skinner Sweet across several decades of his existence – from his creation as a vampire in the 1920’s, in point of fact – careful attention has obviously been paid to the costuming of the characters and even their manner of speaking.  It’s just very freakin’ cool.

I know that you shouldn’t judge a story when you’re only part of the way through it, but for this I’ll break my own rule.  As a stand-alone story, Bad Blood, the Skinner Sweet origin story, works particularly well, but like many comic books which are built specifically for the drip-fed format, as you move through the volumes, it becomes more daunting to simply ‘pick up and play’.  Which is not to say you can’t do it, but I’d be loath to suggest such a thing when the beginning is so good and adds so much to your understanding of the comic. Read the rest of this entry

Kennedytime

Stuck Rubber Baby

Cruse, Howard

Paradox Press/DC Comics, 1995

ISBN: 1 56389 216 2

This graphic novel was one that I’d seen around for a long time, in libraries and comic book stores, on the internet even.  But until it got forced into my hands, I never thought to read it.  When I say ‘forced into my hands’, I mean ‘kindly lent to me’; it’s the joy of hanging out with book people, you always leave with a couple of treasures to read, and a list of recommendations as long as your arm.  I can’t give you a good explaination for why I didn’t pick up this book before now, but I can give you a couple of weak ones.

Firstly, I never never choose to read anything based in a historical period if I can possibly help it.  It’s a dumb reason, that one, because I sometimes enjoy the stuff that I do read (The Floating Book by Michelle Lovric was one that I enjoyed a lot, and I really liked Maus by Art Spiegelman, too).  Historical movies I hate on a ridiculous level, ugh, God, Kingdom of Heaven is possibly the highest on that list, Orlando Bloom with his perfect teeth and his wrong horse and … hmpff, I’m going to move on from that before I get completely sidetracked.  But yeah, I’d never line up to read about a historical period.  There are just too many examples of people making the literary equivalent of Kingdom of Heaven out there, which is obviously way too taxing on my blood pressure.And, there was something about the illustration style that really bothered me; again, a dumb reason, because it was given to me to read because I was talking with a friend about how much I like Robert Crumb’s style of drawing.  That was the first thing that the Lad said about the illustrations too – like Crumb… but… not.  Too uniform somehow, too steady, at least to me.  But who reads graphic novels for the illustrations?  (For more explanation of that, frankly, bizzare statement, take a look at this earlier post).

After all of that shabby explanation, however, I’ve found out that there are several damn fine reasons that this comic is in Comic Journal’s list of 100 best English-language graphic novels. Not the least of which is that I sat down to read, and I was pretty much hooked at page 2.  Not just regular hooked, you-can’t-stop-reading-hooked.  My eyes started falling down when it got to one in the morning, so I went to sleep, but first thing I was up and reading again; I mean it, I got up at six-thirty in the morning on a Saturday to continue reading this book. The story is beautiful, wickedly personal (though in the acknowledgments, Cruse states firmly that this book is “…a work of fiction, not autobiography. It’s characters are inventions of mine, and Clayfield is a make-believe city.”), deeply unsettling in parts.  Read the rest of this entry

Burn this City

Transmetropolitan 1 – 10

Warren Ellis (writer), Darick Robertson (pencils), others

Vertigo Comics

You know what?  This post started as one about the series Transmetropolitan, which is a pithy, scary (if there is any premonition in the writing), sad, hilarious and downright brilliant series of graphic novels by renowned writer Warren Ellis (John Constantine: Hellblazer, FreakAngels, etcetera) and pencilled by Darick Robertson.  It actually turned out to be a post on how much I love comics.  But that’s alright, because not only is it my blog (so har-de-har, you’ve got to put up with it), all the reasons why I love Transmetropolitan are also the reasons I love comics.  So I’m going to stop blabbering now, and get on with the post.

I came to comics (or, more fancily, graphic novels, or more fancily still, sequential art) pretty late, and to the good ones even later.  It wasn’t until I was seventeen that I bought my first Amazing Spider-Man (although I can’t even remember which issue it was now… though I do remember that there was a full page piece of art in it which had Spidey and the Fantastic Four in a ticker-tape parade, which I subsequently ripped out and used for a theatresports poster – my priorities were different then).  A few years later, I met a boy at university who was pretty interested in them (he was a Judge Dredd fan from way back, with a bit of X-Men thrown in for chuckles, but he also wrote and drew his own).  After discovering the joys of indie and art comics (starting with Jhonen Vasquez’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac; yes, yes, I know), and marrying said boy, I have become the thoroughly addicted person who stands before you today.  My name is Mama Wolf, and I love comics.  Even the StarJammers arc of Uncanny X-Men.

I first got to Warren Ellis’ writing through the John Constantine: Hellblazer series, which is really no surprise.  There is some damn good writing in there; for a side character from Swamp Thing, Constantine has a lot going for him.  These long running series can be really interesting from a writing perspective, as each writer brings elements of the character that they’re interested in to the fore.  They’re interesting from an art perspective too, I suppose, but all I know about art is ‘ooh pretty!’ or ‘ooh, weird-looking!’ (both of which have their charms, I ain’t judgin’), so I can tell you what I like, but not about the technical aspect.  I do admire comic book artists abilities to make a character completely recognisable from many different angles.  I guess you artists out there are going ‘der’, but from someone who really can’t even make her stick figures look the same, it’s pretty impressive.

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